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Nadine Menendez hit and killed pedestrian in 2018 car crash referenced in federal indictment


By Celina Tebor, CNN

(CNN) — Nadine Arslanian Menendez, wife of Sen. Bob Menendez, hit and killed a pedestrian in a 2018 car crash, according to a police report. That car crash, which took place prior to her marriage to the New Jersey Democrat, is alleged to be the inception of a bribe in the federal indictment against the couple.

According to a report from the Bogota, New Jersey, police department, Nadine Menendez struck 49-year-old Richard Koop with her Mercedes-Benz sedan in Bogota in December 2018, killing him. She was driving alone.

Police questioned Nadine Menendez and concluded she was not at fault for the crash, the report says, and she was released without a summons and allowed to leave the scene of the crash. The pedestrian, Koop, had been jaywalking, according to the police report.

According to The New York Times, Nadine Menendez was never tested for drugs or alcohol. Authorities must demonstrate probable cause a driver was impaired before testing for alcohol immediately after a crash, Joseph Rotella, a former president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, told the newspaper.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office declined to charge her, the Times reported, and the office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

CNN has reached out to a lawyer representing Nadine Menendez for comment. In an interview with the Times, her lawyer said the car crash was a “tragic accident” but was unrelated to her current charges.

“My understanding was this individual ran in front of her car, and she was not at fault,” David Schertler told the Times.

The recently uncovered information about the 2018 car crash adds new context to the federal indictment released last month against Nadine Menendez, her senator husband and three others.

According to the indictment, Nadine Menendez was involved in a car accident around December 2018 that left her without a car.

The indictment goes on to allege that two of the co-defendants in the case, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe, “offered and then helped to buy” a new Mercedes-Benz convertible worth more than $60,000 for Nadine Menendez in exchange for Sen. Menendez’s interference in a New Jersey state criminal prosecution of one of Uribe’s associates and a related state criminal probe involving one of Uribe’s employees. According to the indictment, Sen. Menendez agreed to disrupt the criminal matters in New Jersey.

Both Bob and Nadine Menendez have pleaded not guilty to all three counts they face as part of the alleged bribery conspiracy. The other three co-defendants have also denied the charges.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Menendez addressed the car crash.

“That was a tragic accident,” the Democrat said. “Obviously, we think of the family.”

The senator’s office referred CNN to his wife’s lawyer for any questions and reiterated his earlier statement to reporters.

Surveillance video and police dash camera footage capture the December 2018 incident and some of law enforcement’s interactions with Nadine Menendez in the aftermath of the crash.

The Bogota Police Department provided the videos as part of a public records request.

Surveillance video appears to show Nadine Menendez hitting a pedestrian with her vehicle, staying in her car, and not checking on him during the seven minutes following the collision.

The nearly 8-minute black-and-white surveillance footage shows her car coming to a halt after striking a pedestrian and a parked car. The vehicle comes to a stop and backs up slightly. The car is stopped for about a minute before driving out of range of the surveillance video.

Dozens of cars drive by the pedestrian’s body before a few individuals gather around him. The first police unit arrives about four and a half minutes after the pedestrian is struck.

Time codes from the dash camera footage and surveillance video show Nadine Menendez being interviewed roughly 30 minutes after striking the pedestrian.

Additional dash camera footage shows an officer driving from the scene of the crash to where Nadine Menendez is, roughly a block away. Clad in a large black, fur coat, she speaks to the officer with her arms wrapped around her body.

“I didn’t do anything wrong, you know?” she said. She said the pedestrian jumped on her windshield.

“No, no,” the officer responded. “I understand.”

“If we can clear you from any wrongdoing, I want to get you home and comfortable and not here anymore,” the officer continued.

Part of an off-camera exchange between the officer and another man who identifies himself as a retired officer from Hackensack, New Jersey, can be heard on the dash camera footage.

The retired officer said his “buddy’s wife,” who is friends with Nadine Menendez, asked him to go to the scene.

“And he said can you do me a favor and take her up there, because our friend just got in a car accident?” the retired officer said off camera.

The investigating officer assured the retired officer that there were no plans to criminally charge the woman, saying he believes “we’re good to release her.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Jose Uribe’s name.

This story has been updated with additional information.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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